Owner of popular Toronto brunch spot calls for faster police response after break-in

Maha Barsoom owns the restaurant Maha's Brunch, and opened Maha's Cafe on Queen Street East with her children a little more than a week ago. On Tuesday, the new location was broken into. (Talia Ricci/CBC - image credit)
Maha Barsoom owns the restaurant Maha's Brunch, and opened Maha's Cafe on Queen Street East with her children a little more than a week ago. On Tuesday, the new location was broken into. (Talia Ricci/CBC - image credit)

The owner of a popular east-end Toronto eatery is speaking out after her restaurant was broken into, calling for police to do more for small businesses victimized by burglaries.

Maha Barsoom owns the restaurant Maha's Brunch, and recently opened Maha's Cafe on Queen Street East with her children.

Early Wednesday morning, little more than a week after opening, her son found out Maha's Cafe had been broken into. When Barsoom arrived, she found a shattered door, broken plates and noticed the till was missing, which would have contained about $60 in change.

"We were so happy with the opening and, you know, [it's] a great neighborhood, I love the customers and the outcome was great. And then something like this happens," she said. "It's upsetting."

Submitted by Maha Barsoom
Submitted by Maha Barsoom

Barsoom said her family called police but the experience left her frustrated with the response, adding the force could do more to help protect small businesses who can't afford things like private security.

Toronto police told CBC Toronto it received three reports of break-and-enters overnight Tuesday in the area where Barsoom's business is.

Police came too late, owner says 

Barsoom said her son called police at 5:30 a.m. after learning of the break-in and was told someone would come to the cafe.

They wanted to start cleaning up, she added, but decided to wait in case the police wanted to check for fingerprints.

At 8:30 a.m., she called police again and was told they were dealing with other emergency issues. An officer would go to the cafe when available, Barsoom said she was told.

An officer eventually arrived at 9:30 a.m., she said, but by that time it was too late for any potential fingerprinting because they had to clean up and go on with the business day.

"I was kind of frustrated a little bit because of the response that this was not an emergency, but it was an emergency in my eyes," she said.

Unlike a larger business, she said, Barsoom can't afford private security for her building.

"So small businesses, they need some help and some protection from the police," she said.

In an email, a spokesperson for Toronto police said the service uses a tiered response system. In this case, as the crime was no longer in progress and there was no threat to the victim, officers got there after completing higher priority calls, said Const. Laura Brabant.

"We completely understand that all crimes are important and every victim deserves a policing response. However, we have to prioritize those most at risk," Brabant said in an email.

She added that the decision to clean up before police arrive can affect if officers can get fingerprints or not.

Councillor says more patrols may be needed

This wasn't Barsoom's first experience with this type of crime. Maha's Brunch on Greenwood Avenue was broken into twice last summer, she said. Each time, the incidents end up costing money for repairs.

Paula Fletcher, the city councillor for Toronto-Danforth, called Barsoom's situation "heartbreaking."

She said whenever there are break-ins in the area, she reaches out to the local police division.

"[I] ask them to increase their surveillance, their patrols and even their plainclothes officers in the area. So I think it's time for that again," she said.

In an emailed statement, police said some break-in prevention measures include keeping areas well lit, having security cameras in plain site, as well as keeping tills open, empty and clearly visible from the outside of the building.